Updated January 2019
Below you will find information about the adoption assistance benefits that may be available to families who adopt children from foster care in Washington. Adoption subsidy policies and practices are, for the most part, dependent on the state where the child was in foster care before the adoption.
Melanie Meyer, MSW
Adoption Support Program Supervisor
P.O. Box 45713/
Olympia, WA 98504
Margie Leon Gaitan
21513 4th Ave. W.
Bothell, WA 98021
What Is Adoption Support?
Parents who are thinking about or are in the process of adopting a child from foster care should know about adoption assistance (also known as adoption support). Adoption assistance programs are designed to help parents meet the needs of children they adopt from foster care. Children can qualify for federal adoption assistance or state assistance, depending on the child’s history. (For more information on federal adoption assistance (Title IV-E) eligibility, view our fact sheet Eligibility and Benefits for Federal Adoption Assistance.)
Answers to select questions were made available by the Association of Administrators of the Interstate Compact on Adoption and Medical Assistance through the Child Welfare Information Gateway (www.childwelfare.gov).
If you have state-specific questions, call your State Agency Adoption Assistance Contact or the NACAC Volunteer (listed above). If you have questions about a specific adoption assistance payment (such as the payment being late or you are changing addresses or bank account), call your State Agency Adoption Assistance contact or the general number for that agency.
For other questions, contact NACAC at 651-644-3036, 800-470-6665, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adoption resources on the web:
Washington Apple Health (Medicaid):
Washington’s adoption assistance:
Who is Eligible for Adoption Assistance or Subsidy?
- How does Washington define special needs to determine eligibility?
Special needs means the specific factors or conditions that may prevent the child from being adopted unless the department provides adoption support services. To be considered a child with special needs the following three statements must be true:
- One or more of the following factors or conditions must exist:
- The child is of a minority ethnic background;
- The child is six years of age or older at the time of application for adoption support;
- The child is a member of a sibling group of three or more;
- The child is a member of a sibling group in which one or more siblings meets the definition of special needs;
- The child is diagnosed with a physical, mental, developmental, cognitive or emotional disability; or
- The child is at risk for a diagnosis of a physical, mental, developmental, cognitive or emotional disability due to prenatal exposure to toxins, a history of serious abuse or neglect, or genetic history.
- The state has determined that the child cannot or should not be returned to the home of the biological parent; and
- The department or child-placing agency must document that, except where it would be against the child’s best interests, the department or child-placing agency made a reasonable but unsuccessful effort to place the child for adoption without adoption support.
Searching for a family that could adopt the child without adoption support is against the child’s best interest of the child when a foster parent desires to adopt a child who has been in the foster parent’s home for 6 months or more and the child has close emotional ties to that foster parent and the foster parent is identified as the adoptive parent of choice by the department or agency staff having responsibility for the child; or the adoptive parent is a relative of the child and has an approved adoptive home study.
- Does the state-only funded adoption assistance program differ in any way from the Title IV-E program?
To be eligible for state-funded adoption assistance, a child must meet the special needs definition above, and be in state-funded foster care or have been determined by the state to be eligible for state-funded foster care and likely to be placed there. The state must have opened a case and determined that removal from the home was in the child’s best interest. If a child is eligible, the benefits under the IV-E and state-funded programs are the same.
- Are children adopted from private agencies in Washington eligible for adoption assistance?
Yes, if the child meets Title IV-E eligibility requirements.
What Supports and Services Are Available?
- What is the maximum basic monthly adoption assistance maintenance payment in Washington?
Monthly maintenance payments are determined through a discussion and negotiation process between adoptive parents and department representatives based on the needs of the child and family circumstances. The negotiation starts at $0 and cannot exceed the legislative cap depending on age.
Since July 1, 2017 it is
- For ages 0 – 4 years old, up to 80% of the foster care rate
- For ages 5 – 9 years old, up to 90% of the foster care rate
- For ages 10 – 18 years old, up to 95% of the foster care rate.
Historically from July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2017 it was 80% of the amount the child would receive if the child were in a foster family home for all ages.
- Does Washington provide specialized rates (based on the extraordinary needs of the child or the additional parenting skill needed to raise the child)?
Washington does not have specific specialized adoption assistance rates. The current full foster care rates are listed below.
Current foster care rates are:
12 years or older
- When do adoption assistance payments begin?
Adoption assistance payments and benefits usually begin on the date the adoption is finalized, but a family may request to have adoption support started prior to the date of adoption. The parent(s) should contact the adoption support consultant if they are choosing this option.
- When a child turns 18, which benefits, if any, continue?
Adoption support typically continue until a youth reaches 18 although they may be extended to age 21 if a youth has not yet completed high school (or high school equivalent), is a full-time high school student, and continues to be dependent on the adoptive family for support.
If the youth was adopted between the ages of 16 and 17, and meets one of the criteria established for extended adoption support, the youth may be eligible to continue receiving adoption support until age 21. The parents will receive an application for this prior to the youth’s 18th birthday.
- Does Washington offer deferred adoption assistance agreements (agreements where initial monthly maintenance amount is $0 for children at risk of developing special needs later)?
- What Medicaid services are available in Washington?
Children who receive adoption support services also receive medical services through Washington Apple Health (Medicaid). These children receive coverage for medical services that are medically necessary, safe and effective, and not experimental. For more information about Medicaid coverage, visithttp://www.hca.wa.gov/medicaid/Pages/index.aspx.
Washington provides additional payment for counseling services needed by children on adoption support. Counseling services may also be covered by Washington Apple Health. However, if the family selects a non-Medicaid provider those services will be paid at adoption support rates. When adoption support is asked to pay for counseling services, the adoptive parent must obtain written authorization from the adoption support program before service is rendered. The family’s primary insurance must be billed prior to billing the adoption support program. Adoption support pays the remainder as long as it does not exceed the rates established for counseling services within the adoption support program. Those rates are currently $55 an hour for master’s level counseling, $70 for psychologist level, and $75 for psychiatrist level.
- What medical benefits are available for state-funded children? (Children who have federally funded/Title IV-E adoption assistance are automatically eligible for Medicaid benefits.)
Non-IV-E-eligible children receive the same Medicaid coverage and services as IV-E children. Families with non-IVE children who do not live in Washington State should work closely with their adoption support consultant if coverage issues arise.
- What mental health services are available?
Public mental health for children in Washington is administered by the Washington State Health Care Authority (HCA), under its Washington Apple Health Program and includes the following: medical/corrective/rehabilitative services such as psychiatric services, counseling, and medical care. Requests for psychiatric care must be submitted to the department for approval before receipt of services. Payments will be made directly to the service provider.
Parents can access mental health treatment for their children and youth by calling the Regional Support Network (RSN) that serves their county of residence and requesting the name and phone number of the local mental health agency. The mental health agency may do a screening over the phone and schedule an intake appointment. Outpatient mental health services are provided by community mental health agencies. Services could be provided at the mental health agency, in-home, or elsewhere in the community. For information about the regional support network please go to:
For more information, call the state adoption office at 800-562-5682 and contact the consultant in the county where you negotiated your agreement or visit
- In Washington, what nonrecurring adoption expenses directly related to the finalization of an adoption may be reimbursed?
Parents can be reimbursed up to $1,500 per child of the following nonrecurring adoption costs necessary to complete the adoption process: reasonable and necessary adoption fees, court costs, attorney fees, and costs associated with the adoption study, health and psychological examinations, supervision of the placement before adoption, and necessary costs of transportation, food, and lodging related to the adoption. International adoptions are not eligible.
- Is child care available? If yes, who is eligible and how do families access child care?
There are no separate funds available for child care.
- Is respite care available? If yes, who is eligible and how do families access respite care?
There is no formal respite care program, but a family whose circumstances warrant additional assistance may be able to increase their monthly adoption assistance payment to help meet these costs. Parents should call the department at 800-562-5682 to pursue this option. (If the family is already receiving the maximum adoption assistance payment, they will not be able to have respite added.) The family would be responsible for finding a respite care provider. Families may also be able to access respite through their local developmental disabilities office.
- Is residential treatment available? If yes, who is eligible and how do families access residential treatment services?
Washington statute does not allow the Adoption Support Program to reimburse parents for the cost of a child’s residential treatment. However, child welfare services, including residential care when the child is in DSHS custody, may be available through other Children’s Administration or other DSHS programs. Adoptive parents can contact their adoption support program manager for information about how to access such services. The Adoption Support Program may be able to provide preauthorized counseling to assist with the transition back to the family home.
Parents can call the state adoption office (800-562-5682) if they have problems or questions.
- What other post-adoption services are available in Washington and how do families find out more about them?
There are no state-funded post-adoption services in Washington. The Seattle area has a parent support group, Adoptive Friends and Families of Greater Seattle (AFFGS). For more information, visit http://www.affgs.org or call 425-243-7725.
- If the assistance listed above in questions 13 to 16 are for specific services, must these services be explicitly identified in the adoption assistance agreement?
What Should Families Know About Applying for Subsidy?
- Who initiates the adoption assistance agreement?
The assistance application is initiated by staff in the field office or child-placing agency in conjunction with the adoptive family.
- Who makes the final determination on an adoption assistance agreement?
Adoption assistance applications are sent to the regional adoption support unit for approval. The program consultant is responsible for the final eligibility determination and assistance negotiations.
- How do families request adoption assistance after finalization of an adoption?
For a child who met the Title IV-E eligibility criteria for adoption assistance before adoption, federal rules allow for a possible finding of extenuating circumstances through an administrative hearing process. In these situations, the adoptive parent must request a review by an administrative law judge or a review judge and obtain an order authorizing the department to enter into an agreement to provide adoption support services. If the child is not IV-E eligible, it is not possible to obtain adoption assistance after finalization.
How Can a Family Adjust an Adoption Assistance Agreement?
- Can adoptive parents ask to change an adoption assistance agreement?
Adoptive parents can request, in writing, a change in the adoption assistance agreement at any time. Requests for modification of payment amounts can be made whenever there are changes in a family’s circumstances or the child’s condition or needs. Parents will need to substantiate the need for change.
Adoption assistance payments may be modified or discontinued and later resumed by mutual agreement of the parties.
To request a change, parents should contact their assigned Adoption Support Program Consultant. If unsure of whom that is, call 360-902-7567.
- What steps does a family go through to appeal an adoption assistance decision in Washington?
Adoptive parents have the right to request a fair hearing to contest decisions made by the Department of Social and Health Services that affect their child’s adoption assistance benefits. To request a hearing, parents (or their representative) should contact the Office of Administrative Hearings, at 360-407-2700 or by mail:
Office of Administrative Hearings
P.O. Box 2465
Olympia, WA 98504-2465
Hearing requests must be made within 90 days of the decision date. The request should include the decision being appealed and why the client is dissatisfied with the decision.
Further explanation of the fair hearing process can be found at https://www.dshs.wa.gov/
What Else do Families Need to Know?
- How is the adoption assistance program operated and funded in Washington?
The program is state supervised/state administered. This means that both policy and eligibility requirements are directed by personnel at the state office. Children eligible for Title IV-E adoption support benefits are funded through federal financial participation as well as with state funding. Non-IV-E eligible children are eligible for adoption support funded entirely by state funds.
Staff are located in six offices throughout the state. Information on the name and locations of the program staff can be found at:
- Does Washington operate a subsidized guardianship program?
Yes. In 2010, Washington implemented the Relative Guardianship Assistance Program (RGAP). This funding is available to relatives licensed as foster parents who assume legal guardianship of the foster child. The guardianship agreement must be fully executed before legal establishment of the guardianship.
- Does Washington offer a tuition waiver program?
The Education and Training Voucher (ETV) program provides financial assistance for current and former foster youth for college. Youth may be eligible if they are enrolled in an accredited college and pursuing a certificate or degree and if they are aged 16 to 20 and left Washington state or tribal foster care.
Once youth are determined eligible to receive ETV, they may receive funds each year as long as they meet their institution’s Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) Policy and ETV requirements.
Also according to federal law, youth who were adopted on or after their 13th birthday do not need to provide their adoptive parents’ income when completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
- Does Washington offer a state adoption tax credit?
No, Washington does not have a state income tax.
- Does Washington have any program to support an adoptee whose adoptive parents die until the child is adopted again?
The adoption support program does not have a specific program to assist a child whose adoptive parents die, but the state offers a wide range of child welfare programs to help children in need of support.
- What is the payment schedule for adoption assistance? Who do I contact if I haven’t received my payment? Can I receive my adoption assistance through direct deposit? You can reach your Adoption Support Specialist on this web page, https://www.dcyf.wa.gov/services/adoption-support-program/program-contacts
- What else differentiates Washington’s adoption assistance program from others around the country?
Washington Legal Resources:
Revised Code of Washington Title 26, Chapter 33 (RCW 26.33)
Revised Code of Washington Title 74, Chapter 13A (RCW 74.13A)
Washington Administrative Code Title 110, Chapter 80 (WAC 110-80)